One month in Mozambique

by André

My second period of one month in Mozambique has just finished and I now take some time to write about the highlights of this second trip.

Aquashare conference
Aquashare was a two-and-half day conference that took place at the VIP Hotel in Maputo. The conference had four main branches: water supply (rural and urban), sanitation (rural and urban), water infrastructure and water resource management. The first day was devoted to presentation by local and international experts (three to four presentation per branch). In the second day there was time for discussion and brainstorming in workgroups – a great way of bringing home something other than a USB stick and a conference laptop bag. In the last half-day the conclusions were presented.

It is important to refer the inclusion of a reference to the need to reuse/recycle water as a way to offset water scarcity. This reference will be included in the final document produced by the conference organizers with the conclusions: the discussion around water reuse is starting in Maputo and we are very happy to be involved from the beginning.

Aquashare conference 2014: The water in 2025.

The discussion around urban sanitation was mostly centered in the peri-urban areas with (N)GOs focusing on building and improving existing on-site basic sanitation infrastructure: a large part of the population still practices open defecation, especially in the North of the country.

The interest in fecal sludge management and fecal sludge (FS) treatment is still limited. It was worrying the fact that some of the most serious problems affecting the sanitation sector sanitation in Maputo – the operation of drainage/sewage network, the trucks bringing FS to the WWTP and the operation of the plant itself – were seldom mentioned.

The discussion around the creation of a sanitation fee continues with the authorities not knowing how to address it: in answer to a question I made regarding the topic, a representative of AIAS referred to the classic chicken-egg problem: how to ask money for something that is not working? That’s not easy to answer but a roadmap could look a bit like this:

  1. Clear definition of roles of the several institutions involved in the sector of sanitation. In detail DNA, CRA, Municipality, ARA-sul and Ministry of Health;
  2. Perform minimal improvements to the existing sewage network: have system II (pumping stations) operating well once again;
  3. Clean the lagoons at the WWTP, fence the surroundings and increase the number of people working on-site; have a night shift to control eventual illegal discharges;
  4. Charge a (reduced) sanitation fee to the population connected to the WWTP;
  5. Regulate the onsite-systems’ emptying market. I propose the development of an automatic system (eg, via sms) in which a household requests a service and the municipality assigns the service to the company offering the lowest price. The company that gets the service pays a fee to the municipality for discharging at the WWTP. This fee would be proportional to the volume discharged, not flat;
  6. Build more fecal sludge transfer stations like the one built by WSUP in the premises of Estádio 1º de Maio in Maputo, as these stations reduce the prices requested by operators to empty on-site systems and, ultimately, help the poorest;
  7. Study improvements to the system: design and build a third system to intercept all the water discharged by system I into the estuary. Finally, design and install a robust wastewater treatment system having in mind: revenue generation (eg, production of biogas) and water reuse (eg, for irrigation);
  8. When the system is fully operational, define the final value for the sanitation fee.

Launch of Plama and Nucopa
Plama stands for Plataforma Moçambicana de Água (Mozambican Water Platform) was launched during Aquashare 2014. It aims at bringing together people from the water sector: water companies, equipment suppliers, consultants and government organizations. The Dutch organization NWP (Netherlands Water Partnership) had an important role in the implementation of Plama.

Nucopa is the acronym for Núcleo de Operadores Privados de Água (Organization of Private Water Providers) and was also unveiled during Aquashare. The mission of Nucopa is, in their own words (my translation from Portuguese), to create conditions for the development and integration of small-scale independent providers (SSIPs) through the development of a common platform for communication and capacity building. The organization also aims at defining operational guidelines and at finding solutions for future challenges in the sectors of water, sanitation, water resource management and environmental protection. Fipag is sponsoring Nucopa.

It will be interesting to see what the arrival of these organizations will mean for the Mozambican water sector. In the case of Plama there is absolutely no doubt that the creation of forums that promote discussions around water and sanitation in the country are necessary. In the case of private water suppliers in the city of Maputo, on the one hand it is important to clarify the legal status of the SSIPs. On the other hand, it is key to start a dialogue between Fipag and the SSIPs in order to define each parties’ role in the supply of drinking water to Maputo in the medium and long-term. However, it is yet to be seen how Nucopa will act in a sector where several organizations that represent SSIPs (being Aforamo an obvious example) already exist and how will the SSIPs respond considering that Fipag is the main sponsor of the organization.

Strengthening the cooperation with CRA
I met CRA for an early morning meeting. CRA underlined the relevance of a project involving reuse in the city of Maputo and the discussion focused on what can the role of the CRA be if (I prefer to think when) water reuse is implemented in the city. This topic will be thoroughly discussed by the two social scientists that will do their PhD within this project.

The regulator went further and argued that if (again, I would prefer a when) revenue can be obtained from water reuse, digestion and/or sewer mining, this revenue can be used to reduce the value of the sanitation fee that, eventually, will have to be implemented (see above).

We are looking forward to a productive future close-cooperation with CRA.

A day at the WWTP
As Irene well described in her thesis the plant is not operating well and there is plenty of work to be done. For example, there is a long way ahead to define responsibilities regarding sanitation in Maputo, and this has been discussed by Lena in her blog post.

During that (very) sunny day Justus and Thijs measured the flow of wastewater arriving at the plant, and Lena counting the trucks that discharge at the plant and registering, as well, their volumes and provenience. This will be important data to be included in their final thesis.

I had already visited the WWTP at the Infulene in two other occasions but this day was a true eye-opener. Here I collect a short list of serious problems that must be addressed as soon as possible to guarantee that the plant fulfils, at least, its minimum objectives and that the health of the population of Maputo is safe-guarded:

  • The plant is in very bad condition, almost abandoned and in need of urgent repairs. All wastewater arriving at the plant is being diverted into the western most anaerobic lagoon, the one that is also used by most trucks to discharge. This lagoon is almost completely full of sludge. The facultative lagoons are almost completely covered with water hyacinths;
    Absence of a fence to control access to the plant;
  • The process of truck discharge is being done with very little consideration safety and health rules for the operators;
    Fecal sludge from latrines and septic tanks is being improperly discharged at the plant. The sludge is left on the ground, next to the lagoons, inside of 50 L plastic bags. According to personal communications this sludge is used by the farmers that work in the vicinity of the plant as fertilizer, a practice that is clearly dangerous for farmers and consumers;
  • There is lack of personnel to oversee discharges: the Municipality has only one person working at the plant during daytime on weekdays;
  • There are obvious proofs of discharge of car oil into the lagoons;
  • Concrete mixer trucks are cleaning their drums in the reeds next to the anaerobic lagoons, with complete disregard for safety and environment.
  • In the meanwhile, the polluted effluent from the WWTP is being used by farmers in the vicinity of the plant.

Concrete mixer truck at the WWTP.

Much of this work would not have been possible without the support of the Municipality. The institution clearly lacks manpower and financing to improve and run the system, but at the same time they realize that the system has to be improved and thus are open to cooperating. From our side, we are very happy in helping in whatever way possible.

Visiting the two pumping stations of sanitation system II
The state of the pumping stations is symptomatic of the problems affecting the sanitation sector in Maputo. This has been already discussed by Justus and Thijs in their blog entry.

Truck discharging fecal sludge at the WWTP.

Working with AdeM and VitensEvidesInternational
AdeM and VEI were, once again, very important partners in our work. AdeM supplied the layout of the drinking water network, the volumes of water supplied per neighborhood, both of which very important for the work of Justus and Thijs. They also authorized us to visit the water treatment station in the Umbeluzi. Unfortunately, we had to postpone this visit but I am looking forward to doing it the next time I am in Maputo.

Meeting Wateraid
Wateraid has done important work to improve the sanitation sector in Maputo, in particular, the access to improved sanitation facilities. Wateraid are also responsible for the ecosan project in Maputo involving Pamodzi (check Odilia and Stefan’s report) and another local NGO, Estamos. For this project they have built more than 60 ecosan latrines throughout the city. I have discussed the possibility of having a project to study the social, economic and environmental impact of ecosan in Maputo. I believe that the lessons learned from this project in the Mozambican capital are valuable for other cities in Africa and elsewhere.

Venturi meter at the WWTP.

BoP InC is a Dutch company that focus on ways to improve the millions of people at the Bottom of the Pyramid, hence BoP. BoPInC “accelerates the number and impact of inclusive innovations in low-income markets. Inclusive innovations serve the demand of the poor and create shared value for all stakeholders involved”. They have teamed up with VEI, SNV, World Water to support AIAS in improving access to water and sanitation services in small towns in Mozambique. While in Maputo I met them and discussed the potential for cooperation. They seem a great partner to work with and we are looking forward to cooperating with them in the future.

Working with the World Bank
For the work of Lena we contacted the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank in Maputo. Lena is preparing a survey to study what are the driving force that explain the filling and emptying of on-site systems. Lena will cover this in one of her future blog entries.

The work of Justus, Thijs and Lena
The trio has given an admirable push to the work, filling one of the most important gaps in knowledge when one wants to discuss the potential for water reuse in a city like Maputo: volume of water used and volume of sewage and FS produced and available for reuse. While Justus and Thijs have calculated the volumes of wastewater flowing in the sewage system of the city, Lena has calculated the volumes of wastewater arriving to Infulene from Maputo and Matola. Both reports will be relevant not only for this project but also for any (N)GO aiming at improving sanitation services in Maputo. It was a pleasure working with you all!

Water valve in Maputo.

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